In Japan, autumn is said to be good for sports, reading, and eating good food. 食欲の秋 (shokuyoku no aki) means exactly the last, and implies all the delicious vegetables and fish that are at their best in autumn.
鯖 (saba), or mackerel, is one of the ingredients that are delicious in the autumn. The only problem with saba is that as it is quite oily fish, the food easily ends up smelling “fishy” if the preparations are not made well.
Roasted Mackerel Sushi (for 2 persons)
2 fillets of mackerel
300 g warm rice
20 cc (rice) vinegar
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
10 perilla leaves
1 tsp white sesame seeds
(Pickled ginger, gari, if you like it)
1) Scrape off scales of the mackerel if needed. Take the backbone out, and cut off the bony parts in the belly as well as fins, if still attached.
2) Wipe the fillets with a kitchen paper, add 4 to 5 diagonal cuts to the skin side of the fillets, and sprinkle with salt. Leave for 10 mins. Wipe off the moisture with kitchen paper.
3) Mix the vinegar, sugar and salt well.
4) Cut the perilla leaves into thin stripes.
5) Put the mackerel fillets with the skin side up on a oven pan covered with cooking paper. Sprinkle with some salt, and roast in 200 degree oven for 15 mins.
6) Put the warm rice in a big bowl, add the vinegar mix with slow circling motion. Mix with a rice ladle like you were cutting something. This is to prevent the rice to get smashed. Mix until the rice is not watery anymore, and gets a nice gloss.
7) Add perilla leave strips and sesame seeds in two sets while mixing well.
8) Divide the rice to two, and put them on two pieces of wrap film. Use the film to make two even sized sticks.
9) Put the mackerel fillets on two pieces of wrap, this time the skin side down to the table. Put a thin layer of gari on the fish, if you want to use it. Instead of gari, you can spread some wasabi paste on the fish. Place the rice stick on the top, and adjust the form with the wrap.
10) Cut into 3 cm pieces and serve.
Today is 中秋の名月 (chushu no meigetsu), Harvest Moon, time to celebrate this year’s crops. It’s also called 月見 (tsukimi), the Moon festival, as since Heian period Japanese people have enjoyed watching the full moon that is said to be at its best at this time of year. Maybe not so much about the moon itself, but the temperature starts to be nice after the hot summer, without being too cold yet.
Sadly it’s raining today, and I had to concentrate on celebrating the crops instead of the moon. Well, I might have done that even it wasn’t raining. 花より団子 (hana yori dango), or 月より団子, to be correct.
Though my “crops” weren’t quite traditional, as I wanted to try out this delicious looking recipe.
Avocado & Shirasu Donburi (for 2 persons)
2 bowls of rice
1/2 tsp lemon juice
50 g shirasu (whitebait)
4 perilla leaves
Some shredded nori
2 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp wasabi
1/4 tsp sesame oil
Some white sesame seeds for garnishing
1) Mix the soy sauce, wasabi and sesame oil to make dressing.
2) Cut the avocado in half, take out the stone and cut to bite-sized. Sprinkle with lemon juice to prevent color changing.
3) Cut the perilla leaves to thin strips.
4) Put the warm rice in 2 bowls, cover with shredded nori. Put 1/4 of the avocado chunks to each bowl, and top with whitebait. Add the rest of the avocado, top with perilla strips, and garnish with sesame seeds.
5) Pour the dressing on the dish just before eating.
Tip: Instead of wasabi, you can try yuzukosho to get a bit spicier version. Then leave the sesame oil out.
For tsukimi, it is traditional to eat taro, so this time I had my taro in a form of a rabbit confectionery. It was almost too cute to eat…